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"It Takes You Away" (review)

We're on a roll here. Five episodes in a row that I've really enjoyed.

Probably the most objectionable thing about "It Takes You Away" is the title. What exactly is it referring to? The solitract didn't "take" anyone away - it basically lured people in and gave them a convincing enticement to stay. Maybe it's meant to evoke the sense that the victims lose sight of their selves and their real lives. Maybe it's referencing the old Calgon commercials. I don't know. But honestly, if that's the only complaint I have, that's brilliant.

At first I was a bit put off by yet another adventure set on Earth (I really prefer stories out in the universe or in other times, or both!), then was pleased to have a journey into a pocket dimension and the space leading to it. (Though, it would have been nice if it had started in a nice peaceful place on a distant planet. Why does everything in this universe target Earth for kidnapping people, imprisoning dangerous races, conquering, etc.?) That tunnel was proper scary, and not the shambling slow monster kind of scary, but actual fast, ravenous monsters and a character you're not quite sure you can trust. (Spoiler: you can't.) I was also pleased to be presented with a good puzzle, with lots of inexplicable pieces (like, what's up with the monster outside, and then later, why did someone set up a fake monster) that kept me guessing.

The strength of the episode, though, were the characters. First, we had Hanne, the girl huddled alone in the boarded-up house, whose handicap was actually integral to the plot. (Not like the deaf woman who was only there so that someone could read reasonably lips...) Her blindness prevents her from picking up clues from her father about what he's doing or discovering the things he's done to keep her contained. (Though I'm not really sure why he didn't just take her with him to the pocket dimension.) She's treated poorly by Ryan and she doesn't let it go, instead taking an instant dislike to him that they only work out because they have to trust each other to survive.

Then there's Hanne's father Erik who, like Graham, is having trouble dealing with his wife's death and then cannot come to terms with the fact that this new Trine is not real. They both want to sacrifice everything else to remain with the women they love, and eventually must face up to the fact that they can't. Graham, the seasoned TARDIS traveler, recovers first, at least as much as he can, and he finally receives the recognition from Ryan that he's craved.

And then there's Ribbons. He was just an incidental character on the way from here to there, but like Perkins in "Mummy on the Orient Express" and Drax in "The Armageddon Factor", he was sculpted and portrayed so well that you really got to know who he was in just a few minutes of screen time.

Of course, the real treat in this episode was the solitract, the being banished from the universe to spend its eternal existence alone - the reason why it did everything it did. The frog CGI was a bit dodgy (just a bit above the black cat puppet in "Survival" in my opinion), but we're DW fans - we've been overlooking bad effects for fifty-five years. The whole concept harked back to "Rings of Akhaten" but was handled a lot better here. The solitract felt more like an intelligent being and less like a colicky child, and the Doctor pacified it like only the Doctor can - without Clara trivializing her sacrifice. And in the end, the solitract itself decided to do the right thing and not destroy its new best friend.

Looking back on it, it's kind of amazing how much story they packed into forty-nine minutes of runtime. They kept the pace up, managing to keep the tension high even during the scenes of Ryan and Hanne waiting for the others to come back.

The only person who didn't have meaningful development is Yaz, who seems to be the red-headed stepchild in this TARDIS team. Honestly, even the episodes that seemed to be about her turned out to be about other people. She's due for the spotlight soon, don't you think?

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